Try packing these nutrients into your diet to feel better
Feeling frazzled? It’s not just your overflowing inbox or your partner leaving their socks on the floor that’s to blame. Research shows that what we eat may be linked to our stress levels.
Scientists at Ohio State University reported in 2010 that those who ate a nutritious diet were less likely to develop stress and depression than people consuming high levels of saturated fats and refined sugars.1
Read on for the best nutrients to pep up your mood, and where to find them:
How does it help fight stress? A 2017 review from researchers at Leeds University reported that the mineral magnesium can reduce anxiety.2 They found that it inhibits receptors in the brain that are associated with anxiety and panic disorders.
What’s more, a 2017 study published in the journal PLOS One found that magnesium improved symptoms of depression and anxiety after six weeks of treatment.3
Where to find it: Leafy greens such as spinach, nuts, brown rice, wholegrain bread, fish, meat and dairy products.4
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How do they fight stress? Folic acid (also known as Vitamin B9), and vitamins B6 and B12 are all crucial for the smooth functioning of the nervous system. These three vitamins also play a vital role in regulating the potentially toxic amino acid homocysteine – increased levels of this can contribute to a range of psychiatric disorders. In a 2010 Northumbria University study, 215 healthy males were given a B-vitamin complex with vitamin C and minerals for 33 days. At the end of the study, participants reported feeling reduced stress and mental fatigue.5
Where to find them: Vitamin B6 is in wholegrains, eggs, peanuts and potatoes, and vitamin B12 in milk, cheese, eggs, salmon and some fortified breakfast cereals. For folic acid, tuck into spinach, chickpeas and broccoli.6
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How does it fight stress? Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which converts into serotonin – this neurotransmitter is involved in the regulation of mood and anxiety and is also known as the ‘happy brain chemical’. A small study conducted by the University of North Dakota saw 25 healthy participants consume both a high-tryptophan diet and a low-tryptophan diet, with a two-week gap in between. When eating the high-tryptophan diet, their self-reported anxiety scores were significantly reduced, and their mood scores were higher.7
Where to find it: Pumpkin seeds, soya beans, mozzarella, whole milk, turkey and bananas.8,9
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And finally, a cup of caffeine-free tea
How does it fight stress? It can be tempting to dive into the nearest queue for a flat white when you’re feeling fraught, but try switching to calming chamomile tea. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology found that chamomile had calming properties for patients with anxiety disorder. How so? Chamomile contains health-boosting plant chemicals called flavonoids, and some evidence suggests the ones in chamomile affect neurotransmitters in the brain that are key to mood regulation.10
Where to find it: Well… chamomile tea!
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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1. Kiecolt-Glaser J. Stress, Food, and Inflammation: Psychoneuroimmunology and Nutrition at the Cutting Edge. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2868080/
2. Boyle NB, et al. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress–A Systematic Review. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452159/
3. Tarleton EK, et al. Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomized clinical trial. Available from: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0180067
4. NHS Choices. Vitamins and minerals: Magnesium. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/others/#magnesium
5. Kennedy DO, et al. Effects of high-dose B vitamin complex with vitamin C and minerals on subjective mood and performance in healthy males. Available from:
6. NHS Choices. Vitamins and minerals: B vitamins and folic acid. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b/#folic-acid
7. Lindseth, G, et al. The Effects of Dietary Tryptophan on Affective Disorders. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393508/
8. Richard, DM, et al. L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research and Therapeutic Indications. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908021/
9. MyFoodData. High Tryptophan Foods. Available from: https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/high-tryptophan-foods.php
10. Amsterdam JD, et al. A randomiized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy of generalised anxiety disorder. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3600416/